Pasadena—A South African family that felt unsafe as a “white family” in South Africa, has been granted asylum in the immigration appeals court in the American state of California.
The case is seen as a milestone in the American judiciary system.
Court documents show that David and Michelle Thomas and their two children, Shaldon and Tyneal, were granted asylum this month. They would have been deported from the US if their appeal had been unsuccessful.
The Thomas family fled Durban for Los Angeles in 1997 “to get away from violence and intimidation against their family”.
Michelle Thomas said in her asylum application the intimidation could be attributed to the “racist actions” of her father-in-law, known as “Baas Ronnie” at his work.
At the time the family fled, he was a foreman at a Durban company. According to court documents, he “was and is” a racist and allegedly physically and verbally abused his employees.
Evidence showed the employees targeted the Thomas family. Their dog was poisoned, their home was ransacked and Michelle Thomas was threatened with death in front of her children.
She says the South African police took fingerprints and patrolled the area, but that was all.
She also said her brother-in-law was a victim of similar intimidation and her father-in-law suggested they buy firearms.
Following a failed attempt by her father-in-law’s employees to abduct Tyneal, the Thomases decided to flee the country.
Their first asylum application in 1999 was turned down by an American judge, because she, Michelle, “believed that as a white South African she became a victim of persecution by black South Africans”.
Judge Ferdinand Fernandez of the immigration appeals court agreed with the immigration judge that the South African government didn’t promote violence by blacks against whites. However, he granted asylum to the Thomas family because they had been persecuted as a result of their family ties in South Africa.
The threatening action of “Baas Ronnie’s” employees against the family could be linked to the fact that they were “members of a particular social group”.